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Traces of Ebony: A Flash Fiction Tale

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A Cup Of Joe

I'd walked past the small coffee shop in Atlanta hundreds of times on my way to work, but never at this slow pace. Perhaps it was because I was temporarily crippled with a bad knee sprain that I'd noticed it today, or then again, maybe it was because I'd slipped on the sidewalk and lost my balance, hurling my old cane practically through the front door of the establishment in the process.

Either way, after my near fall, I decided to stop for a cup of coffee and rest a bit before I continued on my way. It was after the morning rush hour so I entered the shop, enjoying the redolent aroma of espresso and cinnamon. There were few customers inside, just three old men who seemed to be friends sitting at one of the tables, talking old men talk. The owner of the shop—I assumed at the time—nodded at me and came from behind the counter to take my order.

He had very dark skin, and except for his crop of thick gray hair, he was of indeterminate age, though I knew he was rather ancient by the way he moved toward my table. Not that he stooped over when he walked, or shuffled his feet in any manner, but his bearing seemed to indicate years of experience, of travails and sorrow, or so it appeared to me at the moment.


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I couldn't trace his accent as it seemed to be a mixture of several languages, a patois not unkind to the ear, musical in a pleasant way which made his smile all the more enjoyable. I ordered a cup of java and a sweet roll and opened a newspaper to the sports page while Frank—the name on his shirt said—busied himself behind the counter.

It was only when Frank returned with my order that he noticed my cane. “Verah nice walkin' stick you have dere fellow,” he said “Your father, he go to the worl war II?,” he asked. I was taken aback that he knew about my father's war duty, was speechless for a moment but finally answered his query. “Yes, he served his time fighting and was blessed to come home again safely.”

“Yes, the war in New Guinea was bad, lotsa Japs die dere, lotsa “mericans too. Was bad.....real bad.” When Frank said this he had a faraway look in his eyes, seemed to see over the horizon to another time. Which he did of course. But I was astonished again that he would know where my dad had been. After all, the war was fought in many parts of the world, on many islands, as well as other countries and lands.

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Before I could ask him how he knew so much much about my father, Frank took a seat across the table from me, and in the process, picked up my old cane and cradled it lovingly in his gnarled old hands. “Yes,” he said “I 'member dis ole stick, made it wif my own hands and sold it to your fadder long time ago.”

Suddenly it hit me, flashed into my head how the old man knew my father. I'd heard the tale many times how dad came by the cane. Stationed in Paupau New Guinea, he was recuperating from a bout of malaria when a young native came by offering the cane for sale.

Carved from a shoot of ebony as black as coal, the locals kept the source of the rare wood secret from the GIs, would only sell small items made from the precious material from time to time.


Wood of Kings and Pharaohs

A painted ebony statue found in an Egyptian Pharaoh's tomb.
A painted ebony statue found in an Egyptian Pharaoh's tomb. | Source

Mysterious Ebony

Ebony has been used since before the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, with many beautiful objects made of the rare wood found in the tombs of these ancient kings. Some believe ebony has a magical effect on those who carve it, with the wood never forgetting those who gather it from the dense forests of the tropics. These craftsmen swear the objects tend to gather together at some time in the future.

But that is merely superstition from uncivilized people who do not know any better, or so I thought at the time. Though it did seem strange I'd accidentally wound up here in the very shop of the artisan, carrying the very cane he'd made so many years ago. But was it really an accident?

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At first dad refused to purchase the beautiful object saying, “I don't need a walking cane, I'm only 22 years old.” Dad said the young boy smiled at him and said, “You need it some day.” And he certainly did use it many years before he died. And now I'd met the young man in my father's tale.

It was only after Frank and I had embraced and shared a few tears that he motioned to the old men at the table to come over and make my acquaintance. They got gingerly to their feet and slowly hobbled over, each with his own hand carved ebony cane in hand.

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63 comments

qeyler profile image

qeyler 15 months ago

When you do flash fiction, every word counts. You take out what you don't need. How the narrator didn't see the canes...that is discordant and overkill.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks qeyler for the input. I did say the old men were sitting at another table but I supposed you missed that part. :)


mactavers profile image

mactavers 15 months ago

I love antiques and an older dealer told me years ago that objects that survive have a life and energy of their own. I was reminded of him when I read your story. Very enjoyable.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thank you for the nice comment, mactavers. Actually this tale contains a lot of truth as my uncle brought back just such a cane from New Guinea after the war ended. And yes, when he told the young native he didn't need a cane because of him being so young, the boy replied, "You will someday!"


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Wow! Super story! Very well done!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks so much, Will! I noticed you too just published a new hub, so I'll have to check it out. :) I was waiting for a chance to tell about my uncle's cane he obtained in Paupau, and this seemed to be the perfect time.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 15 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

With words to spare, lot's of them, you told a remarkable story, Randy. And I mean that. The "coincidence" began with his fall outside the coffee shop. That last line caught me flat footed. Well done and thank you for participating in this challenge. We are off to a fantastic start.

And yes, the other canes were well out of the picture. No conflict there at all.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks so much, Chris. Believe it or not, my first draft only had 630 words. I simply couldn't resist adding a few more. LOL! It was actually partly true and your challenge enabled me to put it in the record. I also learned a few things along the way. Thanks again, Chris. :)


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 15 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

Great story, Randy, and very intriguing how "the objects tend to gather together at some time in the future." That is an amazing touch to the story. I enjoyed reading.


DJ Anderson 15 months ago

No one can write them like you, Randy.

My heart leapt up in my throat when I realized I was seeing

a new hub from one of the most gifted writers of Southern tales.

You take real good care of that walking stick because it is going to

end up a permanent fixture to your hind quarters if you don't get

a book of Southern stories on the book shelves, soon.

You think you are gonna live forever? Get er done, Bro!

I know exactly where Jekyll Island is located and I know there is

only one campground on that island. Don't make me threaten you, cause, I will.

If you had written one paragraph a day over the last few years, you would

have a couple of books completed. I see you on here every day, talking sh*t with your cronies. EVERYBODY, LEAVE THIS MAN ALONE.

He is one of the best writers in his field, and he is fiddle farting his

time away. And, when he is gone, there will never be another Southern

tall tale writer to take his place. There will never be another Randy

Godwin.

I want to be at your first book signing.

Sincerely,

DJ.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hey Phyllis, I'm glad you stopped by to check out one of my few attempts in the Flash Fiction genre. "Few" because I usually tend to go on and on once I get started. Thanks so much for your time and input, as always. :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 15 months ago from Queensland Australia

Great flash fiction story Randy. My father served in Papua New Guinea in WWII a well. It all sounded very plausible to me. Well done.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Dammit DJ, I thought I'd slip one past you, but apparently you're too sharp for me. LOL! And Beth says she'll be glad to help you smack me around a bit until I finish my book as she too is weary of prodding me herself.

I haven't been too idle, however. Since I've bought a new computer--my other one died-- and many of my unfinished tales and photos are still unrecovered, including some important research, I've writing my ass off. My son--the IT--promises he will recover my stuff, but you know how young'uns are--will hopefully get it done.

I always look for your input--and even the threats--when I tell a new yarn. Thanks for keeping me on my toes and being a good friend. :)


DJ Anderson 15 months ago

I have an IT for a son, as well. It is like pulling teeth to get him

to help me with computer problems.

If you say you are writing your ass off, then I will believe you.

BTW, you better have the tiniest ass know to man when I check back up with you.

Beth, I figure between the two of us, we can scare up some fine stories

out of billy-bob, here, He will be happy to write just to keep us off his back. LOL

I will not go away. My husband has tried everything he knows, and I am still here!!!! He, He

DJ.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks John, it was really my dad's brother who obtained the cane from the young boy in New Guinea. He may have met your father during the war at some time or other. Small world. Thanks again for your time. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

LOL, DJ! I sympathize with your hubby. We probably both have skinny asses to show for our efforts in pleasing you and Beth. :P

Yep, kids...whattaya gonna do? :)


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 15 months ago from Hereford, AZ

Wonderful tale Randy. I have an old cuckoo clock that my uncle got when he served in Germany. He bought three of them, one for each of the important women in his life. His mother, grandmother and aunt. I got one of them and cherish my Black Forest cuckoo clock.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

What a wonder gift the clock is, Becky. Ebony is so scarce these days it's illegal to import it in some cases. The Gibson guitar company was once raided by the Feds because they were illegally importing ebony for the fingerboards on some of their high-end guitars. :o

Thanks for checking this FF experiment of mine, and for the nice comments. :)


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 15 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

Great story, Randy - I really like the little twist at the end - didn't see that coming! Good one.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

@FatBoy Thin--Thanks for reading, Colin. I always try to end my tales with a surprise of some sort. I'm pleased you found the" little twist" enjoyable. :)


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

This was really great. It is nice to know that sometimes you can trust an author right up front to provide an excellent story. Many say that Ebony has special powers. Great stuff to think about.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hello again, Eric! Having my readers trust my work to be enjoyable from the very start is high praise indeed. Thank you so much for those kind words as they've made my day. I was concerned with this attempt at Flash Fiction--only the second try I do believe in this genre--and your nice comments has eased my mind. I really appreciate your time. :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York

Moving story all starting by tripping! Life is full of surprises and you've certainly packed them in here.

No buttons to vote but I would have voted this up, useful, awesome, and interesting if there were!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

BTW, Randy, I really liked the final twist!


Damian10 profile image

Damian10 15 months ago from Naples

Nice job Randy. very well done. My son served in Afghanistan about 3 years ago. Had some issues but getting better now. For the future I am being told I may use a cane for my MS but I say no way ... God needs me to do some things for Him.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks again Will! And I do appreciate you mentioning this hub on your new story. I do so love to end my tales with something to think about. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Very pleased you liked my attempt at Flash Fiction, Damian. I must say, it's very difficult for me to relate a yarn in less than 1000 words. I'm a bit wordy for this genre. Thanks for your time and the nice comments. :)

I too have experience with a cane as I shattered my heel a while back by falling off of my 30' roof. :o


dreamermeg 15 months ago

Great story. Enjoyed that. It was a good twist in the tail.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 15 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Wonderful story. You have done it so beautifully. Thanks and congrats.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Many thanks, Meg! So pleased you liked the "tail twisting" at the conclusion. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Venkatachari M--I appreciate your kind words and your time reading this short tale. :)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an interesting and enjoyable story, Randy. I loved the twist at the end!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Glad you enjoyed my tale, Alicia. I try to always end my yarns with a surprising conclusion. Apparently this one was a success. Thanks for your time and nice input.:)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 15 months ago from Central Florida

Randy, I loved this story. I never knew what was coming, which makes for a great writer. I have to agree with DJ. In my eyes you're the best storyteller on HP. In fact, I voted for you as Best Fiction Writer in the Hubbie awards.

I ALWAYS look forward to your posts. Sure wish HP hadn't taken away the vote buttons.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hey Shauna, it's great to get such input from you and other writers here I so admire. As you know, Flash Fiction is not really my genre but as this tale is based on a real event--the part in New Guinea but not in the coffee shop--I couldn't resist Chris' challenge to write about the cane my uncle acquired during the war.

As he's deceased now, I wanted his story on the record in some way. I'm really flattered you voted for me as best fiction writer because there are so many other's here--including yourself--I admire in the fiction category.

I too wish HP hadn't removed the voting options as it's one of the only ways we can get feedback as to how our stories are accepted by the readers.

As always, I really appreciate your taking the time to read and give input on my yarns. :)


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 15 months ago from Sunny Florida

Wonderful story You have a knack for flash fiction.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Very kind of you to say so, KKG. :) I don't enjoy writing Flash Fiction nearly as much as longer tales as they're more difficult to express my imaginings with so few words. This is only my 2nd attempt at such and I'm very pleased with the nice comments I've received. Still, I have enjoyed the experience and learned a lot during the process.

Cam(Chris) is the FF king on HP and I've learned a lot from him about the art. I'm glad he issued this challenge. Thanks again for you input, KKG. :)


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 15 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

I keep looking for those darn voting buttons! This is a nifty tale indeed. I hear that Papua New Guinea is still rather wild and mysterious. My nephew went there to install some heavy equipment and he said that the natives are just as inscrutable as ever.

This is a lovely story pinpointing a special place and time. Thanks for writing it.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hey Lela, and thanks for stopping by. I haven't heard about Papau in recent times, but my uncle had lots of stories about the natives and the animals there. He said during the war the army set up a huge outdoor movie screen to entertain the troops and played a Tarzan film the first night. The natives were also watching the movie so when a lion suddenly appeared roaring, and seemingly charging towards the audience, all of the natives headed for the trees. LOL!

Thanks for reading and your welcome input. I too miss the voting buttons.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico

Hi Randy: Enjoyed the yarn. I brought back a stick made from the root of a tropical plant and sold outside the Caves of Cacahuimilpa in Guerrero Mexico. (I may have spelled that wrongly). It is so tough; more a staff, I have walked with it for ten years with no signs of wear on the unprotected end that hits the ground. I once had an ebony paper knife with a silver handle...lovely object, lost over time. Don't agree with qeyler's petty objection.

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico

ps...I don't even know what "flash fiction" is and don't wish to really! I know I enjoy your stories and you are one of the few people I still read these days....


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Diogenes--Good to see you, Bob! Flash Fiction isn't one of my favorite venues but I thought I'd give it a go because of the prompt Chris included with the cane. The part in Papau is true and I'd been looking for such a chance to write about my uncle's ebony cane he acquired during the war. Thus this short tale.

Never mind about qeyler's critique of this yarn as I appreciate anyone's critique on my efforts, good or bad. Very interesting about your cane and knife and sorry about the loss of the latter.

I always appreciate your input as I think we seem to think alike on many levels. Flash Fiction tales are very short--this one had to be 1000 words or less--and it's very difficult for someone as wordy as I to be so terse.

Thanks so much for your input and |I'm very pleased you approved of my effort. Don't be a stranger old friend! :)


annart profile image

annart 15 months ago from SW England

A beautiful, gentle story, full of emotion, history, old friends.... Great mixture for flash fiction and well crafted. Your characters are vivid.

Ann


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Great to hear from you, Ann! FF is not really my thing, but I did enjoy the challenge from Chris and tried my best to fill the bill. :) It's very good practice for someone such as I who tends to go on and on in the telling of a yarn.

Thank you so much for your nice comments and especially for your time reading this one. I hope you will also give it a shot. :)


annart profile image

annart 15 months ago from SW England

Yes, I'm going to write a response but I have guests to entertain this week. When I have some peace and quiet I'll get it done.

Yes FF is a good discipline. It's amazing how many words we can cut out and still keep the sense or even enhance it. You did a great job!

Ann


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Will look forward to your tale, Ann. And thanks again. :)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 15 months ago from Southern Illinois

What a wonderful story teller you are! You met the challenge head-on and I loved it...


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hey Ruby Jean (that sounds like a southern gal's name :P) and thanks for the nice words of encouragement. This was a neat challenge and was fun in the bargain. I loved the variety of ideas we all wrote in response. Thanks for your time. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

@Tilsontitan--Somehow I missed your comment, Mary. I apologize for my oversight and want to thank you for your nice words re my yarn. I really do appreciate your time and input. :)

Randy


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

What a wonderful story! I really enjoyed reading this this morning. Well done! :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Good morning, Sheila. Thanks for the nice comment on one of my very few attempts at Flash Fiction. Congrats on the 100 profile score. I once kept a 100 score most of the time until HP banned me from the forums. They also removed some of my accolades in the process. LOL! I fell so punished! :P

Thanks again for your time. :)


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 9 months ago from San Diego California

Remarkable tale about a remarkable wood. Life is full of these little synchronicities. Great hub !


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 9 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks for your time and nice comments, Mel! This tale was based on real events and I enjoyed creating it. :)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 months ago from Other Side of the Sun

Very poignant tale Randy. We live a multi-layered, mysterious world that's for sure


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 months ago from Georgia

Very enjoyable piece. You know your story is good when there could be so much more to it if you decided to expound on it. The story leaves you wondering if the meeting is fate or merely serendipitous? It happens so often in life. There is always that question to explore when people converge in one place, at a specific time. Yes, the mysteries of life, as CMHypno said. Take care.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 4 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Randy, what a gripping tale for this flash fiction. You really pulled me into the story and hooked me there. Well done.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks for the share and your valuable time, Cynthia! Long time no see. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Cyndi, yes there was much more J could have written, but then it wouldn't qualify as Flash Fiction. Life is strange and truth can be even stranger at times. I appreciate your time and input. :)


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Pleased you liked my effort at FF, Kristen. Thanks for your time and nice comments.


Cousin Susie 4 months ago

Great story, Randy, as yours always are! Don't worry about being "wordy"...it runs in our family, you know! ;) We just have lots to say, don't we?


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Hey Cuz, yes we do seem to be a talkative family and this carries over into my stories on occasion. Thanks for the nice comments as usual and you should join HubPages and share some of your writing. :)


Damian10 profile image

Damian10 4 months ago from Naples

Randy:

This is tremendous. Great job as usual. Very well done. Kudos!


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 months ago from Southern Georgia Author

Yo Damian, thanks so much for you kind words, and especially for your time. It's very much appreciated. Very pleased you enjoyed this semi-factual tale. :)

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